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Generosity in Hurricane Michael's Wake

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Backwoods Bistro
401 E. Tennessee St.
(corner of Gadsden)

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael came ashore on the Florida Panhandle, causing widespread and devastating destruction to the area and to parts of Georgia. People were left without homes, livelihoods and resources, and some communities, such as the coastal town of Mexico Beach, were almost completely wiped out.

Following the storm, a wide range of actors mobilized to respond. Traditional organizations with specific disaster response mandates such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State of Florida, county and city governments and the Red Cross took on critical roles, but so too did a number of nonprofits, religious congregations, schools and universities, businesses and community groups.

In this first Policy Pub of the new year, Assistant Professor of Public Administration David Berlan discusses how the broader community generously donated time, money and other resources to help rebuild. His brief presentation will cover the surprisingly extensive web of generosity, as well as lessons for continued rebuilding efforts and future disaster responses. After the talk, he will facilitate a conversation about the importance of the community in recovering from disasters and assisting one another.

In spring 2019, Berlan taught an applied-research and service-learning course, in which graduate and undergraduate students supported and lead field visits to Gadsden, Jackson, Liberty and Orange Counties to engage with the affected communities.

"Throughout my research in a string of beach towns and rural inland communities along a stretch west and south of Tallahassee known as the Forgotten Coast, I directly observed nonprofits relying upon donated funds, supplies and labor to meet housing and other needs not being met by flood insurance or government funding," Berlan said in an article in The National Interest about a year after the disaster. "Everyone my students and I spoke with relayed multiple stories of how neighbors helped one another and how this generosity made the disaster recovery quicker and more bearable."

The public is encouraged to come out to this free event to learn, in a casually social atmosphere, how public policy and individual and organizational efforts can help communities in distress. Because Policy Pub events are very well attended, the public is encouraged to arrive early to get a convenient parking spot and a good table inside.

More about David Berlan's study
on post-hurricane volunteerism
and support

Listen to the audio from this Policy Pub session:

Download this Policy Pub's slides.